Native American Coins

Throughout US history, the federal mint has produced Native American coins in different denominations that honor the Native American influence on the shaping of America. Native American coins have been some of the most popular coins collected throughout US history. These coins should not elude any coin collection.

The Indian Head Cent

The oldest of the US minted Native American coins is the Indian Head cent, or penny. They were minted between 1859 and 1909 and designed by US Mint engraver James Longacre. The image on the coin is of Liberty wearing a traditional Native American headdress. The United States Mint reports this coin was in circulation for 60 years. The Indian Head cent is 19mm in diameter and weighs 3.11 grams made of .950 copper.

The Buffalo Nickel

The Buffalo nickel is one of the most popular coins ever. These Native American coins were designed by James Earle Fraser and featured a Native American chief on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse. Minted during the years of 1913 to 1938, the chief is said to be a composite of three different Indian Chiefs who sat for Fraser’s design work; Big Tree, Iron Tail, and Two Moons.

The buffalo on the reverse was modeled after Black Diamond, a popular attraction at the New York Zoological Gardens at the time.The Buffalo nickel is 21.2mm in diameter and weighs 5gm made of 0.750 copper and 0.250 nickel.

The Gold Quarter and Half Eagle

These were the first two Native American coins to feature a design that depicted an actual Native American Indian. The design was created by Bela Lyon Pratt and the image was struck below the face of the coin rather than above – the only two coins in US history to be struck that way. The Gold Quarter Eagle was minted between 1908 and 1929 and is 18mm in diameter and weighs 4.18gm made of .900 gold and .100 copper. The Gold Quarter Eagle is still available through the US Mint for purchase, the Half Eagle is more rare.

The Sacagawea Golden Dollar

This Native American coin first appeared in circulation on January 27, 2000. The obverse of the golden dollar depicts the Shoshone Indian guide, Sacagawea, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition. She is featured carrying her infant, Jean Baptiste, who was born during the journey. The reverse of the golden dollar features an eagle in flight surrounded by 17 stars, which represents the 17 states of the union at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The golden dollar is 26.5mm in diameter and 2mm thick, weighing 8.1g and has an extra smooth edge. It is comprised of 0.885 copper, 0.060 zinc, 0.035 manganese, and 0.020 nickel.

In 2006, the United States Mint introduced the new American Buffalo 24-karat gold coin. These coins are replicas of the original Buffalo nickel struck in 24-karat gold. They are available for purchase through coin dealers.

Joseph Paige 2006

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